This season has been a nightmare of Tim Burton proportions at Portsmouth. The club are going from one crisis (owner) to another and there seems little hope of a happy ending for the South coast club. With such a dire forecast should the 112 year old club just accept administration and start again?
Over the past few seasons the successful FA Cup winning side has been disbanded and the club has veered rudderless towards financial ruin. Players such as Lassana Diarra, Sulley Muntari, Jermaine Defoe, Peter Crouch, Younes Kaboul, and Sylvain Distin have all left the club for vast sums. The players are immensely talented going to clubs from Real Madrid to Inter Milan, Everton and of course Tottenham. Despite these players leaving, little notable talent has been recruited, certainly none of a comparable standard. This has left the team struggling in the Premier League, where they sit bottom and are given little chance of staying up this season.
Surely though by selling these players for such a profit, the clubs finances must be healthy? The current Premier League is however not a forgiving place and financial stability generally relies on a wealthy owner willing to underwrite any losses. The old adage that ‘the only way to make a small fortune in football is to start with a large one’ has never been more appropriate. Unfortunately Portsmouth no longer have a wealthy businessman at the helm and instead this season they have had a succession of charlatans in charge, looking to gain a profit from the club. People like Sulaiman al-Fahim and Ali al-Faraj took over at the club with the intention of selling the club on again for a fast profit. Of course such strategies have failed and frustrated investor Balram Chainrai has now taken over, with err, the express intention of selling the club! Hopefully he will stay long enough to bring some stability to the club before he sells.
The most important assets of a consistently successful football club are continuity and stability. Many clubs have shot to glory but the downfall has been so painful as to question the original success. How many Leeds fans would trade their Champions League semi final for a regular Premier League spot and avoid the years languishing in the lower leagues? Is the FA Cup worth the potential demise of Portsmouth FC? This is a genuine possibility with the winding up order looming over the club.
There is another option for Portsmouth. It is an unpopular one but is a realistic and arguably a sensible one. The club could file for administration. This would protect the club from creditors and allow the club to rebuild and hopefully to re-establish itself on a more stable footing. The points penalty ensued would guarantee relegation this season, and the squad would be further stripped down to the bare minimum, ensuring another difficult season in the Championship. The plan would be a long term one however and with shrewd ownership the club would be able to gradually build and within a few seasons the club would be able to rise back towards the Premier League. All Portsmouth fans will hate me for saying this but Southampton are starting to recover after a disastrous few seasons. They accepted administration as the only way to save the club, and despite the difficulties they survived and are gradually on their way back to the Premier League.
It is a dire situation to even consider administration at any level of football let alone in the Premier League. It will raise serious and damaging questions of the Football Association and the Premier League as to their ownership rules. How can the succession of owners without appropriate finance have been allowed to own Portsmouth FC. It also raises wider questions on the greed and immorality that is now deeply imbedded within the beautiful game in this country. For some clubs sporting success is no longer enough or even the priority. That the FA have overseen this situation and have shown a patent inertia is irreversibly damning. They must take some blame, ignoring values over the pound signs racking up in their coffers.
Portsmouth may choose to wait and allow Chainrai the time to attempt to steady the club. The stability may also help Avram Grant and the players for the remainder of the season. If the players could do the incredible and avoid relegation then the club will be in a far stronger position. I would like to see the club continue for the next 112 years and if 5 years of strife after administration is the price required then I urge Portsmouth to swallow their pride. The neutral football community will support the club and their passionate fans will again have a club they can be proud of.
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